The unbearable lightness of globalization: On the transnational flight of wuxia film
After the global popularity of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, transnational Chinese directors have seized the opportunity to make wuxia films by following the same strategy of organizing transnational funding, cast and crew, and distribution networks. Examples include Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Tsui Hark’s Warriors of Heaven and Earth, Seven Swords, and Chen Kaige’s The Promise. In the face of this new global wave of wuxia craze, this chapter takes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a point of departure to explore cultural and political aspects of flight imagination in the current discourse on globalization. The major concern here is not merely to evaluate or criticize this global circulation of film commodity that constantly blurs national boundaries and cultural borders, but to explore how this wuxia craze might ultimately help us to “rewrite” the global as “globall,” a global with an extra “l” endowed with the corporeal imagination of “the balls.” Through a constant play on the English letter “l” both visually and semantically, this paper attempts to map out two major differences: (1) the historical and esthetic difference between the wuxia “flight” and the kung fu “fight” as a mobile displacement of the “l,” and (2) the theoretical and political difference between the “haptic” “qi” space of embodiment and the “optic” cyberspace of disembodiment. All these critical mappings will converge on my central concern on qing gong (ethereal flight) to unleash a radical questioning of the current global wuxia craze by foregrounding the always already “transnationality” of wuxia film in its historical development, stylistic mixing, and cultural reception.1 These historical and cultural explorations of qing gong will finally be taken in this chapter as a line of flight from the current deadlock of global Hollywood versus national cinema to open up a different route of theorizing the dynamics of the corporeal and the political, the transnational and the national.